A Comic About Life Deserves a Post About Life: Jog on a 9/12 release

A new grocery store opened 15-20 minutes from my building today; it seemed like an excellent chance to sustain myself on free samples, and I was totally right. I couldn't believe how many cheese samples they were working the floor with. I wound up buying some buffalo milk mozzarella, since I didn't want to feel like a complete mooch.

And the store didn't tolerate antics, let me tell you - while I was in the ravioli sample line, a young boy jumped right to the front of the line, only for the ravioli sample man to ask sharply if his parents knew he was skipping in line. The boy's mother then pulled him away as he shouted "YOU SAID WE WERE GETTING HAMBURGERS!!" The sample man lamented the state of today's youth. It was a scene of America.

Miriam #1: This is a new oversized ongoing project, from writer/artist Rich Tommaso. Published by Alternative Comics, 24 b&w pages, $4.95.

Tommaso has always shown enthusiasm for combining slick visuals with his fascination for marginalized and perverse bits of Americana. Here, his visuals are slicker than ever, while his favored subject matter synchs with an ambitious take on a youthful relationship between the Miriam of the title and her longtime pal/crush Peter. It's one of those stories where different parts take place in different time periods, and the little revelations we're given about the past affect what we've read about later days.

Specifically, 1/3 of this issue takes place in the mid-'90s, with Miriam as a cartoonist and Peter a (lousy) film student roping her into helping him interview an old exploitation movie cameraman. Then the next portion rolls back to 1986, with Miriam as a high school girl pining for Peter in secret while her metalhead friend -- and Peter's current girlfriend -- destroys all that gets in her way. The last third is set in 1977, where lil' Miriam finds herself drawn to naughty Peter as a brash playmate.

Being only the first issue, it's mostly a lot of pieces floating around, and most of them are very familiar. More alarmingly, the title character remains little more than an accumulation of miscellaneous sensitive-yet-sardonic girl wallflower signals. Still, there's some sly narrative movements -- I really liked how an overheated look at a Russ Meyer girl gang movie is later evoked in an emotional lunchroom fight -- and Tommaso has a nice grip on little characterizations, like how children have fun being annoying, or how two nerds trying to talk to a girl drift into talking to each other about their interests. Gives me hope that this GOOD start will develop.